Cardboard boat race is a family affair

Event aimed to educate on water conservation


On Sept. 12, dozens of Baldwin and Freeport residents gathered at the Milburn boat launch on Atlantic Avenue to see Ryan Pastore, 13, Ed Phalen, 90, and Jay McGinley, 32, navigate their homemade, variedly buoyant vessels made exclusively of cardboard, duct tape, rope and string.

Ryan Pastore, 13, from South Huntington Middle School, was the youngest participant, who used the same boat he built with his father and grandfather when he started cardboard boat racing when he was 7 years old. Of his second-place finish, he remarked, “I really thought I would’ve won…”

At which point, his grandfather, Ed Phalen, 90, who took the first-place prize, interrupted by saying, “He tried to do circles around me and wasted time.” Phalen and his family have been participating with his family since the inception of the event 25 years ago.

Phalen built his cardboard boat the last time the event was hosted, but had never won with it. He added under his breath, however, “I think Ryan slowed down to let me win.”

Dominic Pastore, Ryan’s father, said, “At the most we probably had about 15 family members” participating in the event. He said he never thought Phalen would beat his son in the race, but admitted that his son was gracious

Baldwinite Jay McGinley, 32, captain of Baldwin Hose 3, took third place of three participants with his roofless submarine. He sailed a small cardboard box that immediately took on water, but he finished the race. He said that the design and building took him about half an hour, admitting, “I dropped the ball as far as planning. “

McGuinley donned American flag hat and trunks with a matching cape in honor of the fire department. He said his fashion motivation stemmed from how ”the country is in a bad spot right now.”

Usually, the race has various heats with dozens of decorated vessels. Baldwinite John Cools, 58, said the goal was “to help people enjoy the water, learn about being on the coast and help create a little conservation.”

Cools said Phalen started this event decades ago, and throughout the years they had several partnerships with community organizations, including the Rotary Club and the Elks, but that this year he simply took on organizing the event by himself, by promoting it and covering the cost of the trophies.

He noted that he wanted to thank Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, who did the paperwork to secure the location, the Baldwin Fire Department and Sanitation District 2 for bringing in their vehicles, as well as the community for coming out. However, he admitted that in future years more participants are needed for the event to continue.